In the wake of a Donald Trump presidency, Israeli environmentalists expressed fear that the United States may backpedal on its climate commitments, thereby putting the rest of the world at risk.
“What Trump says is very bad from the worldwide environmental perspective,” Amit Bracha, executive director of Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense), told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“He said he’s going to cancel the Paris Agreement, the American obligation to the Paris summit. He said he’s going to cancel the presidential orders regarding climate change.”
The Paris Agreement, which officially came into force on November 4, is a universal climate accord adopted on December 12 at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, also known as the Conference of Parties 21 (COP-21).
Signatories to the agreement determined that the global temperature rise must be kept well below 2°C by means of varying national targets.
Although Israel has yet to ratify the agreement, Environmental Protection Ministry officials said on Monday that they plan to raise the ratification for government approval next week.
In May, Trump warned that as president he would cancel the agreement, describing the accord as “bad for US business,” and previously calling climate change a “hoax.”
Acknowledging that Trump has said he intends to invest money in protecting America’s environment and its water resources, Bracha argued that taking the climate as a whole under consideration is critical.
“America, being one of the biggest polluters in the world, together with China and India, cannot disregard the Paris summit,” he said.
“Being the watchdog of the world and being such an influential country, they are not only obliged to the agreement, but they must be at the front of it,” Bracha added. “They have to lead it toward reducing greenhouse gases. Their job is to be the leader of the Paris Agreement.”
American-Israeli solar-energy entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, who was a member of the Israeli negotiating team last year in Paris, expressed similar sentiments on Monday.
“The historic global climate agreement went into effect four days prior to the US elections, and Israel is a signatory to that agreement,” said Abramowitz, CEO of Energiya Global Capital, which builds solar fields in the US and Africa.
“The Trump transition team has prepared a draft executive order canceling the US support for the climate deal, which would basically doom western US communities to increased fires and extreme drought and coastal communities to the effects of rising sea levels and supercharged hurricanes,” he said. “A loss of American leadership on climate would mean that our children and grandchildren will suffer from greater air pollution, increased food scarcity and increased political turmoil around the globe.”
In America, Greenpeace USA campaigned against Trump in the weeks prior to the election, using the hashtags “#ClimateVoter” and “#StopTrump” in its messages of Facebook and Twitter to voters. With an image of the Statue of Liberty sinking in the ocean, the group stresses that “four years of climate denial would be a catastrophe,” asking: “Is this what it would take to convince Trump it’s not just the weather?” On Wednesday morning, Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said, “Fear may have won this election, but bravery, hope and perseverance will overcome.”
“Greenpeace and millions of people around the world have all the power we need to combat climate change and create a just world for everyone,” she added. “Let’s use this moment to re-energize the fight for the climate and the fight for human rights around the world.”
Israeli climate-policy specialist Naor Yerushalmi, who was also part of Israel’s delegation to Paris last year, stressed that although Trump’s positions are cause for global concern, revoking America’s adoption of the Paris Agreement would not be an easy task.
“Everything can be reversed, of course, but the process is very complicated, and it would take Congress and the government together to turn it back,” he said.
However, Yerushalmi, who is the former CEO of Life and Environment, the umbrella organization for Israel’s green groups, warned that Trump could still create major stumbling blocks to the global effort to combat climate change.
“If the US will step out of this process, it will be seriously harmful,” he said on Monday.
For example, Yerushalmi said, the US ratified the Paris Agreement alongside China, and an American decision to step away from its commitments could prompt China to follow suit. In addition, the Trump administration could bring renewed financing to coal and oil development, he said.
“The whole world is watching, and this can create a change in the whole world’s atmosphere,” Yerushalmi said. “He has the power for that and can cause a chain reaction.”
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